Management theories

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27 April 2016

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Classical Management theory and Human Relations theory have played an vital role in the history of modern management .It is two qualitative leap of modern management system. As two relatively complete system of Management theory, Classical Management theory and Human Relations theory has made its own unique contribution. This essay aims to identify key similarities and differences between two theory by comparing detailed aspects which including focus, the comprehension of structure ,basic assumptions of person and the task of leader, simultaneously, exploring how Classical Management theory and Human Relations theory can reconcile the incompatibilities between the approaches.

Classical Management theory was developed during the Industrial Revolution in order to deal withthe problem about inefficiency in the factories. it mainly contained of Weber(1922)’s Bureaucratic management,Taylor(1911)’s Scientific Management and Fayol(1925)’s General Management Principles. As Taylor (1911) wrote in his books “the purpose of scientific management is how achieve the maximum efficiency “,these theory highlighted the importance of using scientific and standardized methods in workplace ; pointed out the study will continue to improve the working methods; determine the many principles to operate the organization more efficiently and emphasized the salary as a potential factor of motivation.

Human Relation theory was proposed by a America behavioral scientist named Mayo (1933) after that Classical Management theory had been presented for nearly 20 years . According to Meyao (1933)the most important factor that effected the productivity are not condition and treatment ,but the human relation in workplace.Human Relation theory stressed the importance of human factors ;advocated improving managers’ interpersonal skills and changing leadership; emphasized the informal organization

Classical Management theory and Human Relations theory contain many aspects that share differences and few aspects share similarities. Firstly, on focus,the classical management approach emphasized a concern for task (output).Thus, using the methods of Optimization of techniques and strict management in order to improve workers output is what the classical management theory concentrate on. In contrast ,the Human Relations Approach focuses on both the workers themselves and efficiency, This aimed at increasing the work productivity through satisfaction and collaboration.

Secondly ,according to the comprehension of organizational structure .in Classical Management approach . The organizational structure should be formal and clearly. Weber (1922) wrote that an ideal administrative structure has characteristics which including: a clear organizational division of labor ;a top-down hierarchy; a professional management system and a strict independent rules and discipline. Whereas the Human Relations Theory proposed the perspective that there is a informal organization existed in enterprise besides formal organization.The role of this formal is to safeguard the common interests of the members so that protect the common interests from additional loss caused by negligence of internal individual or external interference. For instance ,a group which the members are not arranged by manager but the reason of which have common values or personal interests is a informal organization.

Thirdly ,on basic assumptions of person, the classical approach adopts standardized the methods of working ,as well as training of employees and they worked more like machines. Therefore , the staff often regarded as “economic person “in Classical Management theory ,this approach also states that the salary is the only way to stimulate the enthusiasm of employees to work .While Human Relations theory proposes treated staff as “social person ” so that not only does it consider collaboration factor to motivate worker but also views strong worker relationship, recognition and achievement as motivators for increased productivity. It’s based on the most popular Maslow(1943)’s hierarchy of needs which stated that every person has some needs which affects his performance and motivation. These needs in the order from the most basic are Physiological needs, Safety needs, social needs, Esteem needs and Self-actualization needs. ( Maslow ,1943)

Finally ,the task of leadership under classical management theory is to set the staff to set work standards, and supervise employees complete the project efficiently .While under the Human Relations theory, the task of leader ship was to facilitate cooperation or coordination among the workers while providing assistance and opportunities for their personal promotion and development and was to be seen as “an agent for intra and inter group communication. ” (Donnelly,2008)

Although both two theories on the theoretical though and the approaches are totally different. They still contain a few similarities . For example,they both believe in organizations as closed, changeless entities which shared a common point common “increased productivity “,It was the final goal either of approaches focused on the target that attempted to find the most efficient way for arranging and managing tasks.

It is difficult to identify which theory is more superior, in most case .modern enterprise associate two management approach to increased productivity. How to balance it is what the leader should ponder. Therefore ,the two major theoretical thought of management theory are well described by Douglas McGregor’s theory X and theory Y in his book named ‘The Human Side of Enterprise’ Theory X relates to the classical approach that holds that People need, and indeed tend to be directed and controlled .In the meantime ,leaders should use strict rule and punishments to regulated workers behavior. Theory Y relates to the human relations approach, the idea that management’s task is to create an environment where employees can be innovative and productive or satisfied in the workplace at least.

For instances, In 1960s, a new mode of production named “just in time ” (also named Lean Production) was implemented Toyota Automotive Corporation .JIT is good combination of two theories. it helps corporation overcome the first energy crisis .The core of JIT is produce timely and appropriately. Equalization and standard production cycle time and standard operating sequence reflect classical management, while Employees can intervene in the production process and develop personal initiative. The mode of production also stressing coordination ,this factors reflect thought of Human Relations theory.

In the nutshell.As two of the most significant studies in field of management,Classical Management theory and Human Relations theory have their own particular merits and limitations. the two theories should not be simply isolated, a single and combined together, but to be a relationship of organic whole. Because of diversity of modern economic environment, A good leader should be the one who can balance various theories and put into practice depending on different situation.which means none of management theories is superior to the other.


Fayol,H (1949) General and Industrial Management.New York :Harper=

Taylor,F.W(1911) The Principles of Scientific Management.New York: Harper

Donnelly,R.(2008) The Role of the Manager. Scotland: Pitman Publishing.

Donnelly, R. (2000) Schools of Management Thought. Scotland :Pitman Publishing.

Maslow ,A. H. (1943) A Theory of Human Motivation.New York:Psychological Review.

Mayo,E.(1933) The Social Problems of an Industrial Civilization.Boston :Harvard

University Press.

McGregor,D(1960) The Human Side of Enterprise .New York: McGraw-Hill


Davis,R.C. (1951) The Fundamentals of Top Management .New York: Harper

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